I’ve never met a parent of any kind of kid who felt that they knew all of the answers.
This isn’t a new issue.
In the 17th Century John Wilmot said, “Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.”
When your child is different from what is typical, all the normal parental angst and confusion is intensified.
Not that raising typical kids is a cake walk. I’m definitely not saying that.
When I meet parents all over the world, I find that they all have similar worries about raising their gifted children.
Three Doubts Every Parent Has About Raising Gifted Kids
I’m not listing these doubts in any particular order, and I’m not in any way saying that every parent has all of them. I’m just saying that these are the ones I hear most commonly.
Doubt Number 1: Am I going to break them?
So many parents are worried that if they don’t do it just right, their children will break.
What do I mean by break?
Well, everyone worries about this in different ways, but it includes:
- They won’t reach their potential.
- They will hate me forever because I did it all wrong.
- They will not be happy.
- They will not be able to leverage their gifts.
- They will not have any friends/marriages/relationships.
Take a deep breath.
You are not going to break your child.
Do some people break their children? Yes, but those people aren’t usually worried about it.
The fact that you’re worried about it makes it highly unlikely.
There are no guarantees in raising children. You can do everything exactly right and still have children who struggle – sometimes seriously. And some truly cruddy parents have kids who come out amazing. There is no one-to-one correspondence between good parenting and great outcomes.
There are no promises.
Doubt Number 2: I should be fighting harder for a better school situation.
We worry that we’re not pushing hard enough for the ideal situation at school. We worry that we’re making too many compromises. We worry that if a child used to like school and now doesn’t, we somehow failed them.
The key idea here is that school will not be perfect. It will never be perfect. For those of us with kids in public school, it’s run by the government. When has that ever been a perfect experience?
In the past, parents didn’t worry about it. I guarantee you my mother was not losing any sleep over wether I was ecstaticly happy at school. This is a new dynamic.
Parents have taken upon themselves the responsbility for their child’s optimum experience in all arenas, and school is just one. We want them to have perfect experiences in sports and other extra-curricular activities, too.
If you cannot relax that a little bit, the least happy person will be you.
We do not have full control, nor do I think it’s necessarily a good thing for us to have or want it.
If we make our kids’ lives devoid of unhappiness, of struggle, of less-than-optimal experiences, we will have grown children completely lacking in resiliency.
Your job as a parent vis-a-vis school is to partner with the school to get the most optimal experience within the constraints of the system.
Your job is not to upend the system.
Your child is one of many, many children the school is trying to serve with limited resources. Be gentle with yourself and the school, and keep in mind that having a struggle in school is not the end of the world.
I’ve written about what to do if school isn’t meeting the needs of your gifted child, so that might be helpful to you.
I’ve also written about managing expectations of schools, and this fits here. Manage expectations of yourself in what you can/should do.
Doubt Number 3: How can I raise a child who is so much smarter than I am?
Most parents of gifted kids believe their child is smarter than them. And that may be true. I don’t know. I haven’t seen your test scores.
I’ve got two thoughts about this doubt:
First, don’t let modern life throw you off.
Keep in mind that your child is growing up in a different world from that in which you were raised. For good or (more commonly) ill, they are exposed to adult ideas much earlier than we were.
They don’t have waiting built in to their lives like we did. Anyone else remember that there used to be not television after midnight? You’d see this until that glorious moment when cartoons came on:
My point is that they are living in a hurry-up world where they spend more times on screens instead of outside playing.
They aren’t used to waiting for anything, and we sometimes interpret their quick-to-be-bored mindset as a sign of high intelligence. This is not a valid assumption.
Why does this matter? I don’t think they are necessarily smarter than you, and they definitely don’t have the experience and common sense you do. Or at least I hope you do.
Don’t misread the signs and then feel intimidated by them.
Secondly, here’s what I know: intelligence alone doesn’t make perfect parents. Not even close.
Good parenting thrives in love, patience, discipline, and a clear vision of what the family’s mission is.
While intelligence can be helpful, super smart parents are not necessarily better than parents of average intelligence. They can be worse, if they feel competitive towards their children, rather than supportive.
If you child is smarter than you, great! It’s no different from if they were better at athletics or piano. Everyone has different talents and skills, and everyone cares about different things.
Interestingly, when my children talk about the things that they think I did best as a parent, it’s almost always the things that were a struggle, not the things that were a breeze for me. Don’t hide struggle or weakness from your children.
If our belief in our parental legitimacy rests in superior intelligence, we have a bigger issue than if our kids are smarter than we are. Parental legitimacy rests in being the parent. Protect, guide, discipline, love, repeat.
Having doubts is normal. We all need a pep talk every now and then.
Here’s my pep talk for parents of gifted kids:
They will be fine.
You will make mistakes.
You will wish you could do things over.
You will have days you think that the neighbors may be wondering what all the yelling is about.
You will shed tears, maybe lots of them.
You will hear how terrible you are.
You will hear about how much better some other parent is.
You may hear, “I hate you!” screamed with venom and loathing.
You will have hard times, but they are not necessarily a sign that you are doing something wrong.
In the end, you are enough.
You are doing a good job at a very tough job.
If you need help, seek help. There is no shame or weakness found there.
I hope you read this as a hug wrapped up in an article.
You are doing just fine, my friend. You are doing just fine, and your child will be just fine.
Let’s end with this beautiful quote:
“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” – Julian of Norwich.
You May Also Like:
- The 2e School Struggle: Reader Q & A
- How to Tell a Child He/She is Gifted
- When Gifted Kids Whine: The Therapist Answers
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